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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Easter holidays have come early for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) User-Generated Content Hub (UGC) in London. That’s the BBC’s centre for expertise whose purpose is to make sure that published images, still and moving, soundtracks, and other documentary film material, are authentic, and mean what the Corporation says they mean in its broadcasts. The UGC was also off work a little more than a year ago, when in a series of broadcasts by Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg (lower left), the BBC produced false text, fabricated images, and invented, mashup soundtrack of the Pussy Riot group.

On that occasion – actually, seven months later, after this report exposed what had happened – the BBC opened an investigation, concluding that text had been “incorrect”; “misleading impression” had occurred; “errors” were made. “Any suggestion that the BBC fabricated or staged any footage is absolutely untrue,” the BBC correction declared. “We are taking steps to ensure the errors are not repeated.” Except during school midterms and on religious holidays.

This week, Daniel Sandford (lower right) another BBC reporter from the same bureau in Moscow, has been hard at work in eastern Ukraine fabricating images and voiceover for what the reporter and his Corporation claim to be “a very, very significant show of force today by forces loyal to Kiev.”

Look closely at the third clip in the sequence, and you will see that this is none of the things the BBC claims to be showing: the men and their equipment are not in military formation; they are too far from the highway, almost 100 metres in the background, to constitute a checkpoint; they lack unit flashes or insignia of rank to show they belong to any army; their costume comprises helmets, gloves, and arms which are not standard Ukrainian issue but American; some aren’t wearing body armour; none is carrying the spare ammunition magazines soldiers depend on when they expect to fire, and to be fired at.

johnny_englishIn short, these are images of a very, very significant show put on by the drama department of the BBC. The only audience visible are journalists and photographers. All that is missing is not veracity, but Johnny English.

Geography and the logistics of military supply are also missing from the BBC display of the Ukrainian Army’s reappearance. “For days”, claims Sandford, “we simply haven’t seen anyone exerting Kiev’s authority in this area.” The BBC headline refers to the Donetsk region, but that is between 40 and 60 kilometres south down Highway M03. Slovyansk (Slavyansk), currently a centre of anti-Kiev protest, is further south again.

The location of the photo-opportunity was between Izyum and the Kharkov-Donetsk border at the one place near-certain to involve no checking for the checkpoint, and no anti-Kiev protesters with firearms. Reuters counted 15 armoured personnel carriers; Associated Press claimed there were 25.

On paper, it’s a staging-post for the southbound column of a two-column movement on Slovyansk, coordinated with other troops moving north from the Kramatorsk airfield. On the ground, this was a stage set for the BBC, Reuters, Associated Press and the New York Times in no man’s land, designed to demonstrate what a New York Times reporter accompanying the BBC called “the opening phase of what the government in Kiev called a wider military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.”

LOCATION OF EASTERN REGION CONFLICT, APRIL 16

ua_map
Source: http://www.gazeta.ru/

MAP OF ROAD BETWEEN KHARKOV AND DONETSK AREA REPORTED BY BBC

kharkiv-slovyansk

The photographs published by the New York Times, by-lined “Mauricio Lima for The New York Times”, are claimed to be of “Ukrainian soldiers”. Andrew Kramer, usually the business reporter for the New York Times in Moscow, avoids describing the soldiers as from the Ukrainian Army, an identification the BBC reporter makes categorically for the purpose, he says, that the Kiev regime can demonstrate its authority “not hiding down a country track but right on the main road where everyone can see it.”

This interpretation, and the images intended to substantiate it, have appeared throughout the international media. In order to assess what evidence the images actually convey, a group of military experts in Moscow was asked to look at each of the following three pictures, and clarify what can be seen.

Picture-1
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Source: http://www.nytimes.com/

According to the experts, the two men are not wearing unit insignia because their units do not exist in the Ukrainian Army. It is plain to the inexpert eye that no two soldiers are dressed, equipped, even armed in a uniform way — except for their boots. Noone is carrying spare ammunition.

Picture-2
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Source: http://www.nytimes.com/ — also bylined Mauricio Lima.

These men are not in any form of military position, checkpoint or otherwise. They are parading for the cameras. The black padded hand-glove and the helmets are foreign issue. The vehicles on which they arrived have enough fuel in their tanks to reach their target – the BBC and the New York Times. They lack refueling facilities if they go too much further south towards Slovyansk. They cannot reach Lugansk to the east, or Dniepropetrovsk to the west.

Picture-3
3
Source: Reuters, as republished.

This fellow, whose location neither Reuters nor the Washington Post makes clear, is wearing boots of the type used in desert operations, probably in Iraq, where a Ukrainian battalion was financed by the US and commanded by a Pole to serve between 2004 and 2008. The helmet and the camouflage costume don’t match those displayed on Highway M03. The machine-gun is of World War 2 type, possibly older. If the magazine is fully loaded, it is the only one available. The position of the gunner is posed for the photographer without regard for his cover, mobility, or his safety if there is counter-fire – unless his orders are to shoot unarmed civilians.

Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense Magazine in Moscow, concludes “these are staged photos. The Ukrainian Army en masse is equipped and armed very badly. The footage has been staged in order to demonstrate to the West the allegedly modern and technological readiness of the Ukrainian forces. In fact, they are the most backward in Europe; more backward, for example, than the armies of Albania and Kosovo. It is a poor, beggarly, underweight and understaffed army. Soldiers sleep on mattresses with holes stuffed with straw. Their basic food is insufficient, their equipment too. This has been publicly recognized by Ukrainian officials at all levels. In fact, this has been said by the current Ukrainian authorities.”

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